Lady Toppers stay undefeated sweeping non-conference slate

Lady Topper senior Kayland Jackson celebrates with her teammates after a big kill against University of Evansville Purple Aces on Jan. 31, 2021. 

Cassady Lamb

The Lady Toppers (5-0) closed out their final non-conference slate of the season in Diddle Arena on Sunday at the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational. 

The Lady Toppers swept Saint Louis in their first match of the day in three sets. WKU finished with 35 digs while the Billikens had 25. 

WKU continued its early-season dominance in the second match against Evansville sweeping the Aces 3-0.

“Another great weekend in Diddle Arena,” head coach Travis Hudson said postgame. “Really, really proud of our team, from a defensive standpoint more than anything else.” 

WKU swept all three sets in both of their matches Sunday.

“I think our team is showing it’s maturity so far,” Hudson said. “And I know that that’s going to be something and that’s going to be really important moving forward into conference play.”

Match 1 Vs. Saint Louis 

Saint Louis came out in the first set scoring the first two points challenging the No. 24 program in the nation, but WKU returned fire going on a 3-0 run to reclaim the 6-5 lead early. 

The Billikens had not played a match since Nov. 23, 2019.

By the first timeout in the first set, WKU was ahead 10-6, however, the Billikens stayed alive with some errors coming from the Lady Toppers.

“I’m really happy for our defense, obviously, but offense too, there’s always things we can work on and I think we’re only going to get better from here,” senior defensive specialist Logan Kael said.

WKU was the first to 20 points in the first set with a kill by senior Nadia Dieudonne. Sophomore Paige Briggs followed with a kill of her own to extend the lead to 21-16. 

Senior Kayland Jackson fired a kill over the net to make it match point WKU. Junior Katie Isenbarger finished the first set with a kill of her own to go up 1-0 on the Billikens. WKU claimed the first set 25-17. 

The Billikens came out with an early 6-3 lead on the Lady Toppers to begin the second set. 

Then WKU fought back, knotting it up at nine early in the second set of play against SLU. As the match waned on WKU was the first team to 20 in the second set courtesy of an attack error from freshman Billiken Emily Henken. 

Saint Louis grabbed the match point but Jackson came back with a kill of her own to knot it up at 24. WKU escaped the second set on a 3-0 run thanks to a kill from WKU sophomore Avri Davis to win set two 26-24. 

WKU took an early 5-1 lead over the Billikens to start the third set. The Lady Toppers went on a 4-0 run prior to a timeout called by Saint Louis. WKU continued its run going 6-0 to make it 12-5 before junior Ashley Hood committed a service error.  

“I like that we come out strong and finish strong,” Junior middle hitter Lauren Matthews said post game Sunday in a Zoom video conference. “Sometimes it can be hard to come out strong and then when you’re really far up in points just keeping your foot on the gas.”

Saint Louis called a timeout being down 16-6 in the third set. Following the break, WKU tacked on two points to extend its lead to 18-6. 

WKU claimed the match 25-13 on an attack error from Billiken Henken. The Lady Toppers improved to 4-0 on the season with the match win. 

Matthews led the team in kills with 11 kills by the end of the match. Following Matthews, Paige Briggs and Kayland Jackson both had 9 kills against Saint Louis.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job of staying consistent,” Matthews said.

Match 2 Vs. Evansville 

WKU set out against Evansville in both team’s second matches of the day. The teams have not met since Sept. 12, 2006, which resulted in a WKU loss, 3-2.

Matthews showed out in set one scoring the first point and kill of the match.

Freshman middle hitter Sam Canner performed the first block of her WKU career, bringing the score to 22-13. 

Senior setter Nadia Dieudonne brought in the final point of the set, a block, bringing the set final score to 25-16.

“Defense was the key to this game, and defense ran the game,” Matthews said. 

The first point scored in set two was a kill by senior outside hitter Kalyand Jackson. WKU had an 11 point advantage, finishing off the set 25-14.

Freshman Paige Briggs had seven kills throughout the second set.

Logan Kael had back to back aces scoring WKU’s 9th and 10th points of the match in the third and final set of the match. 

Matthews stepped up kills to begin the set as well as end it, bringing the final score of the match 25-11.

“These teams that we played I think mirror some of the teams in our conference quite a bit,” Hudson said on preparing for conference play through non-conferences matches.

Matthews led the team in kills with nine against Evansville, and Briggs followed with eight kills.

Briggs also completed 11 digs throughout the match. Dieudonne topped off with 27 assists against Evansville.

WKU took large leads throughout the match, winning the three sets by nine, 11 and 14 points respectively. 

Sunday’s two matches were the last matches the team played before beginning conference play. 

“I think us being able to constantly work on things that we can control daily in practice and that working out and showing in games boosts our confidence and really got us ready for conference play,” Kael said. “I am in full 100% belief that we got this during conference play.” 

Up next WKU will host Florida Atlantic on Feb 7-8 to open C-USA play. Both matches begin at noon. 

Volleyball beat reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lambp0p.